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Woolly Mammoths: Siberian Ancestor Comes Back To Life

Written by 56th Parallel

Woolly mammoths thrived in Siberia until about 12’00 years ago until climate change and our ancestors pushed them to extinction. Today global warming and archaeologist are uncovering their remains.

mammoth globe locator

Tusks back in time

Looking at a mammoth’s tusk is like looking into history. These shaggy giants that roamed northern Siberia 10’000 years ago were roughly the same size as modern African elephants. They could range to 3.4 meters high and weigh up to 6 Tonnes. They were equipped with thick woolly fur to protect them from the Siberian winter. The ears and tail were noticeably shorter than modern day elephants as to minimise frostbite. Most notably they have enormous tusks that it used for manipulating objects, fighting and foraging. Their tusks could spiral out 13 feet or more in special cases.

Mammoth tusk

©Photo by Evgeniya Arbugaeva

Pristine mammoth tusk

©Photo by Evgeniya Arbugaeva

Emergence from the ice

These tusks are of most significance today, as they are slowly emerging from the permafrost in modern-day Siberia. This, in turn, is fueling an ivory trade, benefiting the people of Arctic Siberia, including the native Yakuts. This increase in tusk hunting has pioneered entrepreneurs, one most notably is that of a tusk that sold for more than $60,000.

Hunters unload tusks in Siberia

©Photo by Evgeniya Arbugaeva

Woolly mammoths and their history

Mammoth tusk hunting in Siberia is an exciting pioneer. As they emerge from the permafrost, like ghosts from the past, we can imagine what it must have been like living with these incredible woolly mammoths. These tusks dominate the landscape, and the people for that matter. These gigantic creatures roamed the landscape thousands of years ago with our ancestors and today they still have such a huge impact on us and the shape of humanity.

©Photo by Evgeniya Arbugaeva

©Photo by Evgeniya Arbugaeva

Mammoth tusk artistry

Nothing has fueled tusk hunting more than the growth of the Chinese demand for carved ivory. An estimated 90% of mammoth exports end up in China where they are meticulously carved into pieces of art.  The images below are some beautifully carved mammoth ivory in various locations around the world. Unlike elephant tusk, the trade of mammoth ivory is legal and very lucrative. However as the trade grows, scientist regret the loss of historical data, and local Yakutians regret the depletion of this non-renewable resource. For scientists, the mammoth tusk holds secrets as to the diet, climate and environment.

©Photo by Evgeniya Arbugaeva

The ancient woolly mammoths are slowly emerging from the ice all over northern Siberia creating an economy for the locals and an art form the world has never seen. The roar of the woolly mammoth is thick in the air of Yakutia currently, adding to the roaring heart of the Siberia. 

Woolly Mammoths russia

If you’re interested in experiencing something magical like stumbling over a one of the prehistoric giant woolly mammoths, then check out our tours in Yakutia.


All photos from this blog post are made by Evgeniya Arbugaeva / National Geographic. You can fin more of her work on her website.

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